Meet Essie Myles, the eighty-something obituary writer for a small town newspaper. She has been writing obituaries since the eighth grade, when her father ran the paper – now her grandson, Doc, is the man in charge. There is a lot going on in their small Nebraska town, and a lot going on in their family. The whole town, actually the world is waiting impatiently for the last book of a beloved young-adult series to be published – and it is being printed on Doc’s printing press. Everyone’s attention shifts suddenly and passionately when an eleven year old girl from a farm outside town is reported missing. The little town and the local newspaper take front stage for the search for missing Lenore….. but does Lenore even exist?
Essie is a wonderful narrator for this twisted, layered story. She knows everyone and their grandparents, and she’s got a sharp wit to boot. I love how she relates to everyone, and the closeness in her family (especially her relationship with her great-granddaughter). She gets herself involved in the fringes of the Lenore mystery, and she truly wants to help – though she’s not exactly sure how she wants to help, or help to do what for that manner. She kind of reminds me of my small-town grandmother, who I miss dearly. Except my Gram preferred Old Milwaukee cans to Essie’s Bloody Mary’s and mulled wine.
There is also something to be said for the town itself – the people, the rituals of daily life. The safety and security and general sameness that is the small town – until the mystery of Lenore shakes everything up. I really believed in this town, and I don’t even think it was ever given a name. I think you could dissect this book in a dozen different ways, and get something new out of it but it never feels too heavy. This book and its characters will not leave you once you’ve finished.
The Coffins of Little Hope
by Timothy Schaffert
Unbridled Books, April 2011
Source: ARC from publisher